Foods You Didn’t Know You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Eating a well-balanced diet is important at all times, but it’s even more essential when you’re pregnant. By eating a well-balanced diet you will be able to provide your unborn baby all the nutrients that he or she needs for his or her healthy development. As you know most foods are safe, however there might be some foods you didn’t know you should avoid during pregnancy. Some foods contain toxins that can lead to birth defects in your unborn baby; other foods contain food-borne parasites, bacteria that cause foodborne illness. The changes in hormonal balance and immune function that occur during pregnancy can make you and your developing baby more vulnerable to serious complications and infections.

7 Foods You Didn’t Know You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

1. Fish

Fish are high in essential Omega-3 fatty acids and protein and low in fat, which makes them an excellent nutritional choice during pregnancy. However, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns expectant mothers to avoid fish that have high levels of methylmercury.

7 Foods You Didn’t Know You Should Avoid During Pregnancy

Methylmercury is a teratogen (chemical that causes birth defects) and it’s one of the byproducts of the chemical industry that finds its way into rivers, oceans and lakes —and into some of the fish that we eat. King mackerel, tilefish, shark, swordfish and albacore tuna are some of the fish that are included on the EPA watch list of fish that contain high levels of levels of methylmercury. Some fish (such as bream, turbot, halibut and dogfish) also contain high levels of other teratogens such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins. Avoid eating raw shellfish during pregnancy because raw shellfish can sometimes contain harmful bacteria and viruses that cause food poisoning.

2. Raw Eggs

Do not eat runny or raw eggs, as they can contain salmonella bacteria. Eat eggs that have been cooked until their whites and yolks are firm, as this kills the salmonella bacteria.

Don’t eat homemade ice cream, or mousse from restaurants or delis, as these may contain raw eggs. However, supermarket ice creams and salad dressings (to be sure, check the labels) are normally made using pasteurized eggs.

3. Drinks and beverages

Caffeine: High levels of caffeine may result in your baby having a low birth-weight, and this increases the risk of him/her having health problems later in life. Excessive consumption of caffeine has also been associated with miscarriage and cleft palate. Caffeine is naturally found in many foods, such as chocolate coffee and tea, and is added to some energy drinks and soft drinks. Some cold and flu remedies also contain caffeine. Talk to your pharmacist, doctor or midwife before taking these remedies. You do not have to cut out caffeine completely, but do not have more than 200mg a day.

pregnant women eating some food

Alcohol: Do not drink any drinks containing alcohol during pregnancy as you will be endangering your unborn baby. Significant prenatal exposure to alcohol can lead to a medical condition known as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Fruit juice: When making fruit juice, the fruits are usually peeled, cut, or fresh-squeezed and harmful bacteria that may be on the outside can spread to the juice. To prevent foodborne illness, only drink pasteurized fruit juices.

You should only drink filtered, boiled or bottled water so that you can avoid being infected by the microorganisms that cause waterborne diseases.

4. Unpasteurized milk and dairy products

Milk and milk products are highly nutritious, but they can harbor dangerous microorganisms that can pose serious health risks to you and your unborn baby. Raw, unpasteurized milk may contain dangerous bacteria such as Listeria, Salmonella and E. coli which are responsible for causing many foodborne illnesses. According to a report released by the Center For Disease Control (CDC) unpasteurized milk is 150 times more likely to cause foodborne illness and it results in 13 times more hospitalizations than illnesses that involve pasteurized dairy products.

You should also avoid soft cheese such as brie, blue cheese, feta, cottage, camembert, ricotta, Latin-American soft white cheeses and any other milk products produced from unpasteurized milk as they can contain disease causing bacteria such as Listeria. Only eat soft cheese that has been clearly labeled as being pasteurized or made with pasteurized milk.

5. Foods containing large quantities of vitamin A

Vitamin A is one of the important nutrients that every expectant mother should have in their diet. However, during pregnancy you should ensure that you do not consume excessive quantities of foods containing high levels of vitamin A as it can cause your unborn baby to develop birth defects. Foods containing high levels of vitamin A include liver, liver products and fish liver oil.

According to the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine pregnant women should get 2,565 international units (IU) of vitamin A every day. Three ounces (85 grams) of cooked beef liver contains 27,185 IU of vitamin A. You should also consult your doctor before taking any vitamin A supplements.

7. Unwashed vegetables and fruits

Vegetables and fruits provide important nutrients that are essential for the development of your unborn baby. However, you should avoid eating raw vegetables such as raw sprouts, clover, radish and beans and fruits that have not been washed. Cooked sprouts are an okay alternative during pregnancy.

Thoroughly rinse raw vegetables and fruits under running water before preparing or eating them, especially fruits that require cutting or peeling – like cantaloupe and other melons. Bacteria can be found on the outer peel or rind.

pregnant women eating salad

6. Raw meat

Raw meat may be contaminated by salmonella and other disease-carrying bacteria. To a healthy adult, these bacteria cause mild but uncomfortable symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and fever. But for an expectant mother, they can lead to premature delivery, miscarriage or stillbirth.

You should also store your meat in the refrigerator at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and ensure that it is properly cooked before you eat it. Thoroughly wash your hands after handling undercooked or raw meat products. To avoid cross contamination, you should always clean your cutting boards and utensils thoroughly.

Apart not eating the foods you didn’t know you should avoid during pregnancy, you should also avoid excessive weight gain. Gaining weight during pregnancy is normal in any healthy pregnancy. However, excessive weight gain during pregnancy is not recommended, because it sometimes causes problems during delivery.

You do not have to deprive yourself of the foods that you love during pregnancy. You can eat what you enjoy, provided that you eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly and take a few simple precautions for the health of you and your unborn baby.